ISLINGTON’S John Ryder will be in action on the undercard of the Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs Danny Jacobs unification clash on Saturday (May 4). He had been expecting to fight David Lemieux on the big show at the T Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, but the Canadian had to withdraw after injuring his right hand.
But Ryder will get a replacement opponent, boxing Bilal Akkawy for a WBA ‘Interim’ super-middleweight title instead. “With Lemieux, it was a big upset but we got a great replacement in Bilal Akkawy. I think we’re all in for a real treat come Saturday night,” the Londoner promises.
An unbeaten 20-0-1 (16) Australian, Akkawy said, “This is a big opportunity. It’s an opportunity for me to prove myself. It’s a world title fight so there’s no way I would turn down a fight like that. I’m going to make the most out of the opportunity come Saturday.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn declared, “It’s a huge opportunity for John Ryder. He’s turned his career in extraordinary fashion. We know what a tough fight this is. We knew David Lemieux was a tough fight but we know Bilal Akkawy comes in as a young man, extremely hungry, very dangerous, and this is going to be a very explosive fight.”
Apart from the obvious appeal of a prominent spot on a Canelo undercard, this fight will reinforce Ryder’s position as the mandatory for Callum Smith’s WBA super-middleweight world title. “If John wins his next fight he’s going to be mandatory for Callum whenever that comes up. That might be later on this year or early next year,” Ryder’s manager Charlie Sims told Boxing News. “It’s going to happen at some point.”
“If John had a win over someone like Lemieux, it just gives him that extra profile boost that it needs to make it a big fight. I think Callum’s looking for a big fight before he has to face his mandatory. It suited us that we were fighting Lemieux but plans have changed and this is the business of boxing,” he added. “I’m gutted for John because although John’s boxed some good fighters, he just needs a win over somebody with a credible name… Lemieux, he had a credible name and I think he needed that on a big platform. I’m a bit gutted for John, because of all the preparation, he’s been training since January for this fight. But the show must go on.
“It’s still a big platform, it’s still going to be for a WBA ‘Interim’ World title, so everything’s still there.”